Case Study for an Aging Congregation

Case Study

Aging Church Living Grace has a paid for building in a highly visible location and a lot of cash in hand due to a large bequest of a deceased member. Their facility is attractive inside and out; their theology is reformed; their ministry is solidly Bible and Gospel centric; their pastor has lasted pasted the three year threshold and is well liked by the congregation. He has good elders who support him and his marriage is solid. He loves the word of God and works hard to make Jesus the center of his ministry. He loves his congregation but isn’t sure how to get them engaged with the community. His town is growing and the opportunities for ministry in the community are many.


The pastor has a teenage son, and their church recently added a family with three children under 11, two girls and a younger son. There are no other children in the church and the average age of the remaining congregation of about 40 members is 70+. Unless they get younger soon, the church’s days are numbered. 

I’ve got some ideas for what they might do but I want to hear other ideas from my readers before I do. One thing before I leave it completely open to suggestions. If your plan doesn’t start with a significant amount of prayer, go back to the drawing board. Think of steps to take;

  • ways to engage the community;
  • ways to motivate the congregation;
  • how they can attract younger families;
  • ways they might partner with other churches inside and outside their denomination.
  • etc.

I look forward to hearing any and all ideas. By the way, with minor adjustments, tens of thousands of churches in America fit this profile in both urban, suburban and rural communities. I’m not interested so much in critique or affirmation as I am in IDEAS of “what to do?”

2 thoughts on “Case Study for an Aging Congregation

  1. Hi Marty, what comes to mind is that the Church would do best to make God”s word the utmost important thing for all families and peoples.  Show where God’s word talks about family, children, life.  Teaching what God wants from all of us.  That true in all people should draw people that want to hear it.  Give them the truth.  All people want to hear the truth.   My thoughts.   Love you Marty.


  2. The following was brought over from Facebook

    Binu Thomas
    This is very typical in Long Island. But unfortunately too many of them (often the denomination or the congregation and sometimes both) are looking for a young White Pastor to save them. Sad to say, there are too many open positions at larger churches that many White Pastors avoid projects like this. Meanwhile I know so many minority Pastors with great potential, leading small congregations without a space of their own. They often pay ridiculous amount of money for rent, sometimes in these same churches, so it’s almost impossible to hire additional staff to grow or do work in the community. These churches will eventually become condos unless these older White congregations realize that God is raising up a generation of talented minorities that are unwanted in these larger churches, that can use their talents to revive churches such as this. Give them a chance to move in and prove themselves.

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    I agree Binu although an urban situation was not this particular example. Let’s do a bit more thinking on Binu’s observation. Can we take the observation and turn it into to some practical options to explore? Let’s move from critique to solutions.

    Binu Thomas
    Most of Long Island is in a suburban setting. So I’m not just talking about the ethnic changes in urban areas. The issue is that the communities are changing. You need leaders who can understand the change outside the church in order to lead the change inside the church. Fact is that most new Christians, including White people, don’t want to attend a mono-ethnic church.

    The solution is to bring in and partner with minority leaders who are in many ways better equipped to understand the dynamics of changing neighborhoods. Many have experienced the non-White church at some point in their life. They have learned to work with and have even reported to people who don’t look like them. Many white Pastors have NEVER reported to a non-White person. I’m personally working with about half a dozen churches, just giving them guidance on how to recruit minority leaders so they can move into real church revitalization. There are many others like me, all across the country who can help in bringing them in. The solutions are there, but too often we tend to not want to see it.

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    Again, I agree. See my chapter in A HEART FOR COMMUNITY, titled “Becoming a Multi-ethnic Suburban Church”.


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